07 October 2013

How to Collect and Store Heirloom Seeds

As you already know, people in Bulgaria live close to the land. One has to look beyond general labels and classifications and will quickly realize that although the country is among the poorest in the European Union, working your own garden and actually owning your home (true for more than 80% of Bulgarians) provides you with fresh, healthy and non-GMO food, and rids you of countless sleepless nights and decisions based on paying the mortgage. These factors lie in the core of happiness.

Bulgaria is a gardening nation. It is considered that Bulgarian master-gardeners are the ones who developed gardening in most of Europe and all the way to Australia when they started migrating and emigrating in the 19th Century.

Actually, I was excited to learn that permaculture is the normal way gardening has been practice for ages. The term permaculture is only used by younger, English speaking Bulgarians so if you ask a 50-something seasoned gardener what it meant he wouldn't understand you but look at the way he works his garden and you will know. He and the land are one.

How to collect and store heirloom seeds via @kanelstrand

So, let's look at garden work and how Bulgarians ensure the high quality of their heirloom seeds. I highly doubt they use anything different than heirloom seeds. They simply store the seeds for the next two years and share or exchange them with neighbors.

Collecting heirloom seeds Bulgarian style

As with all fruit and vegetables whose seeds you want to collect, make sure the peppers are fully ripe. Cut the top of the pepper and carefully remove the core with the seeds on it.

How to Collect and Store Heirloom Pepper Seeds

Spread out to dry. If you have different sorts or colors of peppers you'd better divide them while you still have some visible proof of color. Leave them to dry completely in the sun. This should take a couple of days.

How to Collect and Store Heirloom Pepper Seeds

When the pepper seeds are dry enough they will fall off the core very easily when you touch them.

Pick your best ripe tomatoes and let them sit in the sun until they get soft. Then squash them in a container with your bare hands.

How to Collect and Store Heirloom Tomato Seeds

Clean the skin and rinse with water. Then use a strainer to separate the seeds from the water. Let them dry in the sun.

How to Collect and Store Heirloom Pepper Seeds

Don't harvest a couple of leeks and let them form blossoms. Before cutting the blossoms off make sure there are seeds inside. Let them dry in the sun and store them in a textile bag.

Storing heirloom seeds Bulgarian style

When your seeds are dry enough (you can tell they are by touching them) transfer them to mason jars with holes on the lids. The holes are made so the seeds can breathe. They shouldn't be too large to prevent insects from coming in.

How to Collect and Store Heirloom Seeds

Alternatively, you can store your seeds in paper envelopes or bags.

How to Collect and Store Heirloom Seeds

Keep your seeds in a cool and dry place.

To prevent mold on all types of bean seeds you collect, add a couple of tablespoons of clean wood ashes that will absorb any eventual moisture.

How to Collect and Store Heirloom Bean Seeds
Pictured here are: broad beans (top image) and black beans (bottom image) harvested in 2013
Be sure to label your saved seeds with the sort name, variety, and the date you collected them. Seeds generally last for 2 years.

The result

The note says: [planted] September 10th., seeds from 2012.
Here you can see the result of planting 2012 lettuce seeds. I took the picture on September 26th and the seeds were planted 16 days earlier. Hurray, Muffin Rabbit will have fresh green produce in the first months of winter!

How do you collect and store heirloom seeds? Share your experience in the comments!

If you haven't heard, we just moved from Norway to Bulgaria for a year. Follow our adventure in simple living here.

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